Garibay v. Komatsu Ltd. (Komatsu Moses Lake Litigation)
In this case, the family of Demetrio Garibay, who died on November 15, 1998, following injuries sustained at Advanced Silicon Materials, Inc. (ASiMI), brought a personal injury, survival, and wrongful death action against Komatsu and KEM, two of the shareholders of ASiMI at the time. Garibay, an employee of ASiMI, was injured following a pipe rupture and release of chemicals that occurred at ASiMI's Moses Lake, Washington polysilicon facility on October 8, 1998.
Our attorneys argued that Komatsu and KEM were not liable for Garibay's death because they acted as normal corporate shareholders and did not assume any responsibility for plant operations or safety or maintenance of ASiMI. After over three years of litigation, in this case and related cases, we successfully negotiated a resolution of most of the plaintiffs' claims. For the remaining plaintiffs, in October 2003, the United States District Court for the District of Washington granted our motion for summary judgment, thereby dismissing the case entirely. The District Court stated that the mere existence of overlapping officers and directors was not sufficient to create liability for a shareholder. The court also stated that there was no evidence that Komatsu or KEM ever affirmatively assumed a duty of care for safety or maintenance at ASiMI's facility. The plaintiffs appealed the grant of summary judgment to the Ninth Circuit. On June 10, 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, stating that "a parent corporation is not liable for the acts of a subsidiary unless the parent deliberately manipulated the subsidiary to avoid a legal duty." Garibay v. Komatsu Ltd., 134 Fed.Appx. 164, 2005 WL 1368066 (9th Cir. 2005).